What a pleasant corner of Philadelphia is Mount Airy. A suburban urban neighborhood: trees and grass yards but also sidewalks and train lines; driveways and quiet but also co-ops and coffee shops. There are even a couple theaters: Quintessence is producing Hamlet and She Stoops to Conquer in rep starting October 9, Allen’s Lane is showing Purlie Victorious by Ossie Davis through October 12.
And fans of contemporary independent theater remain unserved no longer: starting October 4 and 5, 2013, SmokeyScout Productions is running NICE AND FRESH, a monthly performing arts series featuring “original, high-quality, risk-taking” pieces by Philly-based artists. Every month will see a new line-up of creators and performers; the first weekend includes four short pieces by some of the city’s best independent artists, shown twice each night on Friday and Saturday.
SmokeyScout artistic director Josh McIlvain has had 115 productions of some 70 plays across the United States. The company he founded with wife Deborah Crocker been staging shows in Philly and New York for five years now, most recently Return of Confessions of a Plate and Shoe, which Phindie writer Jessica Foley hailed as her favorite show of the 2012/13 season. Confessions featured stand-out performances by actor Sarah Knittel, who is working with Josh again on his piece Sadie Remembered as part of NICE AND FRESH alongside longtime sketch comedy guru Steve Lippe.
Since relocating from the Bay Area in 2010, John Rosenberg has established a critical reputation as one of the best playwrights in Philadelphia: Howard Shapiro, Mark Cofta, Bruce Walsh, and J. Cooper Robb have all raved. (This writer agrees: Last season’s Alp d’Huez was certainly one of the finest new plays on the city’s stages.) Unfortunately, the off-the-beaten track location of his Papermill Theater in Kensington means audiences have been slow to discover what the critics have seen. (They have another chance starting October 12, 2013, when his latest full-length, Hannah, opens at the Papermill: info here.) Mount Airy may be no closer to Center City, but new audiences will appreciate Rosenberg’s work with his NICE AND FRESH piece Protection.
Chris Davis starred in SmokeyScout’s 2012 show Carter’s Play, but it is his playwriting that has attracted attention recently. He wrote one-third of 2013 Fringe smash Holly’s Dead Soldiers, and continues to tour with lauded solo works Violence of the Lambs and Drunk Lion. He has a seriously inventive comic voice; his NICE AND FRESH entry Something Great is likely to be something great.
Seeing a set of theater pieces together with another performing arts piece can put a new perspective on the theatrical works. In all its performing arts revues, SmokeyScout adds interpretive flavor with a dance piece alongside the short plays. For October’s NICE AND FRESH, this is a piece choreographed by Meg Foley of Moving Parts Dance. A founding member of Mascher Space Cooperative and a dance teacher at University of the Arts, Foley is known for her thought-filled experimental work. Her Lay of the Land provides an appetizing movement-based course to the NICE AND FRESH menu. October 4 + 5, 2013, (subsequent events November 1 + 2 and December 6 + 7, 2013), smokeyscout.com.